How politicians in Poland make Germany an enemy

How politicians in Poland make Germany an enemy

In Silesia there is frost. The region, in which Germans and Poles have met more intensely than anywhere else for eight centuries, is expecting temperatures down to minus ten degrees. But when the halls are full, you don’t need to freeze, and where Jaroslaw Kaczynski speaks, the halls are full. The chairman of the arch-conservative governing party PiS is dividing his country like no other, but he reliably gets applause from his supporters. Especially for his remarks about the German neighbors.

Gerhard Gnauck

Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in Warsaw.

Kaczyński started with big politics. The EU is in the process of realizing a new “so-called European project” with further deepened integration, which Berlin is striving for. If that happens, Germany will have even more say than before. Then will Poland “got under the German boot. It’s hard to live under a boot.” In October, he said that if Brussels was withholding funds from Poland (in the rule of law dispute), it was “only an appearance. Brussels is the executive body, the decisions are made in Berlin.” A terrible danger hangs over Poland. “We are threatened with the loss of independence.”

Kaczyński could have spoken differently in Silesia, for example at his station in Legnica. This major Silesian city is known for being where, in 1241, “Europeans” fought in rare unity against “barbarians”: the Mongols. A clash of civilizations. The European knights lost the battle. But then the Mongols turned back. They disappeared again as quickly as they had come on their horses.

Kaczyński prefers to evoke the German threat

The politician could have spoken here about European unity with a sidelong glance at Russia and today’s war. About the fact that the Silesian-Polish and later German-Polish border has been one of the most stable borders for centuries Europe and that rulers at that time also took possession of lands, but did not think of driving out masses of people. About the fact that – after the dark period from the divisions of Poland to the Nazis’ “Lebensraum” terror – Poland’s Catholic Church of all people stretched out its hand to the Germans. In 1965, the bishops, including the later Pope John Paul II, wrote a letter to their German counterparts with the famous words “We forgive and we ask for forgiveness”.

Then Polish President Lech Walesa and Pope John Paul II in Poland in June 1991

Then Polish President Lech Walesa and Pope John Paul II in Poland in June 1991

Image: picture alliance / PAP

Kaczyński could also have mentioned the year 1989, when the Poles fought for their freedom and the Germans – also thanks to Poland – gained freedom and unity. In this joint zero hour, when the cruel division of Europe ended, the new Polish Foreign Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewski coined the sober word of the future German-Polish “community of interests”. Kaczyński might also point out that before 1989 no country took in more Polish refugees than western Germany. And that since then around 200,000 German-Polish marriages have taken place.

As an aside, a Polish politician in Silesia might mention that his once-poor country has achieved a real economic miracle since 1990. That Germany now imports more from Poland than from France (even if many Germans don’t know how much Polish they eat and drink every day). And he could express his joy that the “archenemies” Poland and Germany are now together in NATO, which is rightly described as the strongest alliance in world history – because it has never been attacked. Another Polish foreign minister, Radosław “Radek” Sikorski, gave a speech to that effect in Berlin in 2011, culminating in the exclamation: “I am less afraid of Germany’s power and more of Germany’s inaction, I’m beginning to fear,” Sikorski said back then, “definitely not German tanks” are now a threat to Europe.

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